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Bazan's objective secured with new order

Spanish builder Empresa Nacional Bazan is certainly on course to accomplish its objective to "provide the necessary means to succeed" in the fast ferry market despite its history as a warship builder. Good signs include the recent introduction of a 315-ft. (96.2- m) monohull fast ferry — the 37- knot Albayzin (As originally reported in the January 1995 issue of Maritime Reporter & Engineering News, page 22), on New Zealand's Cook Strait route; two identical vessels under construction for a local route; and an order just received from a Uruguayan operator to build an enlarged 40-knot version.

Converting from naval to commercial production, a dilemma facing many shipyards around the world, is undoubtedly difficult, but fortunately Bazan's apparently successful approach has been well documented.

Successfully completing such a transition involves consideration of vessel type, construction techniques, production systems, etc. — all utilizing accumulated skill and knowledge.

It is significant to note, however, how much attention must be commited to customer relations, as noted in a recent paper by Fermin Horrillo, planning manager and Jesus Arce, production manager. Dealing with a commercial operator requires a heightened sensitivity to price, where costs (including running costs) become a major consideration in the decision making process.

The Bazan team, however, went even further back to basics in fine tuning its new philosophy, insisting that the potential customer should trust that the shipyard is making a strategic decision to move into a market rather than taking advantage of a given moment in order to win a specific contract. Customer confidence, it suggests, is further enhanced by a clear understanding of operational requirements and difficulties as well as the technological aspects of the vessel. Although most owners think they would like a tailor-made vessel, Bazan believes that while the superstructure, accommodation, catering facilities and duty-free shop layout are essentially a customer decision, the hull and propulsion system should be as close as possible to a proven design. It contends that a standard vessel has improved sale or chartering prospects and will more easily attract financial backing. Although it is predictable that Bazan would eventually opt for a monohull design of fast ferry, utilizing its frigate experience, the company did analyze all options, finally admitting that there is no absolute truth—except that the material should be aluminum for reasons of weight saving. If a chosen route is in a protected area where seakeeping is not relevant, Bazan concedes that a catamaran with its lower fuel consumption/ power requirement would be a more suitable choice. The larger surface area of the catamaran may also be important to an owner. However, if thereis a possibility that the vessel could be moved at a later date to another, less protected route, a monohull with better seakeeping, simpler maintenance and greater flexibility should be chosen. But it is no secret that Bazan intends backing both horses by developing a multi-hull fast ferry. To build the 315-ft. Mestral vessels, a building strategy was developed involving the division of the craft into 10 complete transversal sections. The work performed in each was carefully planned so thatpriorities could be established at the outset. A PERT program was used as a planning tool, developing the necessary software to provide the interfaces for the different databases used in the budgeting, purchasing, engineering and production departments with automatic update and feedback provision.

According to Mr. Horrillo and Mr. Arce, the CAD-CAM system is a fundamental element in the building strategy. Among its main advantages are accurate dimensional information, cutting, shaping, marking and positioning detail, piping and wiring information and establishing work packages within the integrated construction philosophy. New machinery considered imperative for the company's San Fernando yard located near Cadiz on Spain's southwest coast (Bazan has two other yards) included an underwater plasma cutting machine with two pools capable of handling a pair of plates 32 ft. x 6.5 ft. (9.75 m x 2 m) each and a seam welder with the ability to weld plates 32 ft. long into panels 32 ft. square. Information from the CAD system is transmitted directly to the new cutting machine through a fiber optic cable. To improve the layout and make best use of existing facilities, the covered working area has also been increased by building two new shops with a total surface area of over 6,000 sq. m., one of which has twin traveling cranes with a total lifting capacity of 100 tons.

Production begins with the reception and storage of plates and profiles in one of the new shops, from where they pass to the adjacent fabrication building for cutting and shaping. Once the elements which form a block have been prepared, work proceeds in the assembly shop until ready for fitting into the appropriate section in the second of the newbuildings. Finally the sections are moved to the building berths where they are joined together. Here outfitting continues until launching.

Both hull and superstructure of the Mestral are in welded aluminum, with the bottom sides and decks longitudinally stiffened and specially reinforced chines. The bridge deck is rigidly connected to the hull girder so that the stiffness of the vessel is high and stresses kept within allowable fatigue values without weight compromise.

The area beneath the car deck is divided by seven watertight bulkheads into five void spaces, two engine spaces and one waterjet room.

Four Caterpillar 3616 diesels each developing 5,400 kW drive KaMeWa waterjets through Voith reduction gearboxes.

The first two Mestrals were originally ordered by local operator Trasmediterranea and designed for service on the Barcelona-Mallorca/Ibiza route carrying up to 450 passengers and 76 cars a distance of over 100 nautical miles at 35 knots. Vessel number one was launched in July 1994, but in October—without having gone into service — was simply repainted in the livery of Sea Shuttle, a New Zealand subsidiary of Buquebus, an operator based in Uruguay who now owns the vessel. Trasmediterranea has agreed to transfer its order to Mestrals 2 and 3, taking delivery of the first in May 1995, in time for the busy summer season. Meanwhile, Buquebus has ordered a larger version, although little detail is known except that it will be able to carry 1,250 passengers and 250 cars at 40 knots and use six conventional diesel engines, almost certainly from Caterpillar, as the two companies are involved in a joint venture to produce a lighter more powerful version of the 3616.

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